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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
'Someone died in front of me'
Louisiana National Guardsman carries woman from flood water in New Orleans
The situation in New Orleans is increasingly desperate
The BBC News website has received thousands of emails after Hurricane Katrina cut a devastating swathe through Gulf Coast communities in the southern United States.

Bill Martin, a student assistant in the sports information office for Louisiana State University, sent us this email about his experiences helping those affected by the disaster after the sports centre at the university became makeshift shelter.


Friday 2 September 1100 local time

We now have more doctors and volunteers here, so while it's been chaotic it's slowed down since Tuesday night.

There aren't as many buses or choppers and there are less buses and choppers and less critically ill patients. It's still a crazy scene, though.

It's something I've never seen before. This is a sports arena where they have concerts and basketball and yet people were being treated medically.

I'm trying to do my own job now, preparing for a football game against Arizona state for next week.

You have to try and move forward. We keep everyone in our thoughts and at some point you know you have to resume your normal life.

It's the only way can move on from the pain.

'Zombie' victims

I ran into someone a day or so ago who said we're in an uncivilised society.

These people are desperate, it kills me to see the looting on television because it reflects on our state. Most of us are not like that, we are legendary for our hospitality.

As for the war veteran I mentioned earlier, I haven't seen him much since, but from what I could tell it seemed like he was going to make it. He just seemed in shock.

The guys they choppered in from the roofs of their houses looked like zombies.

Their faces were so scared, it was terrible to thing that someone had to go through all that, spending hours stranded in such a dire situation.

Many of those who came to us had lost everything. Many had lost family and friends.

'We will rebuild'

At the sports centre it's very functional now, everyone is doing their part. We have about 1,000 people in the field house and maybe 100 in the sports centre itself.

It shows the character of people, students were volunteering, as were the athletes at the school and all the doctors.

People coming in now are not that badly injured. But the Black Hawk helicopters were choppering people in every 10 or 20 minutes at one point.

They were landing on the track by the stadium; you could see them coming in from our office, people coming out on stretchers. It was a very surreal site, normally that's where you see fans partying before a football game.

It's a dire situation in Louisiana, but as a state we're going to get through this.

We'll move on. The people here are good people, compassionate and hospital.

We'll rebuild and life will go on.

Wednesday 31 August 0300 local time

Little did I know what I would be doing following Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, but there won't be a more gratifying or more surreal experience.

On Tuesday, we went up to the office and held a press conference regarding the postponement of the [American football] game and it was the right decision.

As the sports centre and other buildings were being used as shelters, we decided as an office to do everything we could to help.

At first, we were just supposed to make copies of this disaster relief form for all of the people. We printed the copies and carried them over to the our office 1830.

I wouldn't leave the area for another 8 hours.

Witnessing death

On the way back to the sports centre in a cart, it looked like the scene in the movie Outbreak.

Stretchers rolled in constantly and for the first time in my life I saw someone die right in front of me
There were FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] officials, US marshals, the National Guard and of course the survivors.

Black Hawk helicopters were carrying in victims who were stranded on roofs. Buses rolled in from New Orleans with other survivors.

As my friend Michael and I rode back to the centre, a lady fell out of her wheelchair and we scrambled to help her up.

We met Coach Miles and Coach Moffit in the centre to see all the survivors and it was like a hospital.

Stretchers rolled in constantly and for the first time in my life I saw someone die right in front of me.

A man rolled in from New Orleans and was badly injured on his head.

Five minutes later, he was dead. And that was the scene all night.

Trying to help

What did we do? We started hauling in supplies. And thousands of boxes of supplies.

Flooding in Canal Street, New Orleans
The lack of immediate aid is one thing but the lawlessness is totally unbelievable
Sara Dawson, UK

The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] arrived from Atlanta, telling us what to do.

One of the US marshals were on hand so the supplies could not be looted.

I asked him what his primary job was. He serves on the committee of counter terrorism, but once he saw the disaster, he donated his forces to come help.

He said the death toll could be nearing 10,000. It was sickening to hear that.

After unloading supplies, I started putting together baby cribs and then IV poles. Several of our football players helped us.

At the same time, families strolled in. Mothers were giving birth in the locker rooms. The auxiliary gym was being used as a morgue. I couldn't take myself down there to see it.

I worked from 1800 until 0245. Before I left three more buses rolled in and they were almost out of room.

People were standing outside, the lowest of the low from New Orleans. The smells, the sights were hard to take.

Scramble to survive

A man lying down on a cot asked me to come see him. He said: "I just need someone to talk to, to tell my story because I have nobody and nothing left."

He turned out to be a retired military veteran. His story was what everybody was saying.

He thought he survived the worst, woke up this morning and the levees broke.

Within minutes water rushed into his house. He climbed to the attic, smashed his way through the roof and sat there for hours.

He was completely sunburned and exhausted. Nearly 12 hours later a chopper rescued him and here he was.

We finished the night hauling boxes of body bags and more were on the way. As we left, a man was strolled in on a stretcher and scarily enough he was suffering from gunshot wounds.

The paramedic said he was shot several times because a looter or a convict needed his boat and he wouldn't give it to him.

I left as they were strolling in a three-year-old kid in on a stretcher. I couldn't take it anymore.




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